Mount Timpanogos At Sunset by Artist Carol Pettit Harding

The Black Hawk War; Utah's Unspoken Truth 

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"The Black Hawk War in Utah— for the Timpanogos Tribe was never about the color of a man's skin, religion, riches or possessions. For when the world was created Creator touched it with his hand, and so it is sacred and spiritual. They fought to protect the sacred and their honor."

by Phillip B Gottfredson | Author "Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace"

Utah's Black Hawk War spanned twenty years with over a hundred and fifty bloody confrontations between the Timpanogos Nation and the Mormons during the years of 1849 - 1872. And forty-one of those occurred before the year 1865, the year Utah's historians say the Black Hawk War began. The Timpanogos have not forgotten the previous sixteen years when their ancestors were brutally massacred at Battle Creek, Fort Utah and Bear River by Mormon colonists.

In total, some seventy thousand Timpanogos – the aboriginal people of Utah – died from violence, starvation, and disease after Mormon colonists stole their land and destroyed their culture, but few people know anything about them, who they are, or what they believed in. This gets left out of Utah's one-sided history. Why? Because no-one cared enough to ask Native Americans of Utah their version of the story.

Quoting from the book Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace, "Every day we areBook cover My Journey To Understand Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace by Phillip B Gottfredson reminded of what our ancestors went through. How our families were torn apart" said Perry Murdock a council member of the Timpanogos Tribe and a direct descendant of Chief Wakara. "Children murdered, the old, the women, all those who were brutally murdered and made to suffer and die from violence, then disease, then starvation, our ancestors’ graves torn up, the land destroyed, it was genocide plain and simple. Why? What did we do? We didn't do anything. We were living in peace. We were happy. Our children were happy. We loved each other. We cared for each other. And when the Mormons came, we tried to help them. Then they tried to take everything away from us. They wanted it all. They wanted to exterminate us, wipe us off the face of the earth. Why? For our land? For our oil? Now we have nothing." In a nutshellthis is what caused the Black Hawk War.

Timpanogos leadership consisted of seven brothers namely Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, Grospeen and Antonga Black Hawk who was the son of Sanpitch. These seven legendary leaders were referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every clan and village along the Wasatch. They were a powerful and prosperous nation highly respected by all in the area. They had long maintained trade routes from the Columbia River to the north to the Gulf of Mexico to the south.

Tensions between Mormon colonists and the Timpanogos first began on July 24, 1847, when Brigham Young along with a party of 143 Mormons emerged from the mouth of Cottonwood canyon on a hill overlooking Salt Lake valley of the Wasatch Front, thus concluding a thousand-mile journey taking 111 days by horseback and covered wagons. Brigham seeing the valley said, “It's enough, this is the right place, drive on.” The Mormons made their camp in the heart of the Shoshoni Timpanogos Nation. The Timpanogos would soon confront Brigham Young and his followers for intruding on their ancestral land.

Now, the Mormon church believed they had a divine obligation to convert Utah's Native American's to Mormonism, according to church doctrine, and in so doing the so-called "loathsome" Indians would become a "white and delightsome people" and would be forgiven of the sins of their forefathers. (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) According to church doctrine, the nature of the dark skin was a curse, the cause was the Lord, the reason was because the Lamanites (Indians) "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.

When the Timpanogos refused to assimilate into Mormon culture, the Mormons’ response was to 'exterminate' them.

The Timpanogos say, "What choice were we given? To walk knee deep in the blood of our people, or give up our sacred land and culture and accept white man's ways... it was a matter of what's right... our honor... survival... why is that so hard to understand?"

  • Why have I never heard of the Timpanogos?
  • What caused the Black Hawk War?
  • Black Hawk was not the villain he was the victim
  • Where they treated with kindness?
  • Background of author Phillip B Gottfredson
  • Topics & Stories by Category

Q: Why have I never heard of the Timpanogos?

Why indeed? When you consider there's a twelve-thousand foot mountain right in the heart of Utah named 'Mt. Timpanogos'. Described as the "bearded ones" the Timpanogos Tribe was first discovered by Spanish explorer Juan Revera in 1765, and later Dominguez and Escalante in 1776 who, by the way, named Mount Timpanogos in honor of the Tribes namesake. In 1776 Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante called the majestic mountain "La Sierra Blanca de los Timpanogos" ( translation: The white mountain of the Timpanogos). For over a century, Utah's historians have either mistakenly and/or deliberately misidentified the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation as being Colorado Utes. These early explorers never mention the name "Utes" in their journals.

The Timpanogos are not enrolled members of the Ute Tribe and never were. The Utes have never referred to themselves as 'Timpanogos.' They are two distinctly different Nations in origin, ancestral bloodlines, language, and customs. The Colorado Utes where not in Utah until 1881 as "prisoners of war" 14 years after the Black Hawk War ended. But it gets left out of history because no one cares enough to ask the Timpanogos who are better at understanding their own history. And if you read our book "Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace" you will understand perfectly The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron.

The Timpanogos Tribe are Shoshoni. Today the Tribe consists of about 1000 members living on the Uintah Valley Reservation.

Q: What Caused The Black Hawk War?

In order to fully comprehend the mind-set of early Christian-led colonists that brought extermination and devastation to Native Americans of Utah and across the Americas, it begins with the Doctrine of Discovery followed by Manifest Destiny. Christian Monarchs decreed that anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible, or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah, was deemed "heathens," "infidels" and "savages". Christians believed that they were entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them "by reason of their idolatry and sin."

When Mormons colonists entered their domain in 1847, Timpanogos Chief Wakara confronted Mormon polygamist leader Brigham Young saying that he and his followers were not welcome to settle on their land and to leave. Brigham explained to Wakara that they had been driven from their homes, and just made a difficult journey and many of their people had died, and that their jaded horses needed rest. They could go no further until spring. Wakara being hospitable, agreed to allow Brigham and his people stay through the winter and helped them with food and provisions.

In the spring of 1848, the Wakara observed that the Mormons were cutting down their timber and building cabins and fences. It became clear that Brigham Young was not going to keep his promise when tensions began to grow between the two.

Spanning over two decades following their arrival, the LDS Church would spend in excess of a million dollars in church funds to ‘exterminate’ the Timpanogos. Resulting in more than 150 brutal and bloody confrontations with Mormon colonists who were recent converts to the Church, and had emigrated to North America to "live in freedom the teachings of Christ."

"They were friendly for a short time" said Chief Wakara in his statement to interpreter M. S. Martenas, "until they became strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards the Indians changed—they were not only treated unkindly—they have been treated with much severity—they have been driven by this population from place to place—settlements have been made on all their hunting grounds in the valleys, and the graves of their fathers have been torn up by the whites."

"I say go [and] kill them…" said Polygamist leader Brigham Young, "...let the women and children live if they behave themselves…" Young then ordered his all-Mormon militia to "exterminate" the Timpanogos that led to some of the bloodiest massacres in Native American history known today as the Utah Black Hawk War.

University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool explained, "We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly, we tried to take from them their freedom."

Black Hawk Was Not the Villain He Was the Victim

Contrary to what historians would have us believe, the Timpanogos preferred peace over war. They see themselves as stewards of the land and fought to protect the sacred, and their honor.

When the colonists came, they upset the sacred and natural order of all living things, killing the deer, elk, and buffalo. They depleted the fish population and polluted the water. They cut down trees, diverted rivers and streams, and fenced off the land.

The message of Indigenous America is connection, relationship, and unity. All people are one. One of the direct living descendants of Creator. Chief Joseph said, “We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything." And I believe that was Black Hawk’s message when he made his last ride home to pass out of this world. As he was dying from a gunshot wound to his stomach, he spoke to Mormon settlers along the way pleading for peace, an end to the bloodshed. You didn't see the settlers do this. So, it took a greater man to do such a thing.

Timpanogos War-Chief Black Hawk

 Chief Antonga Black HawkBlack Hawk was by no means a 'renegade' as some have characterize him. At a young age he was schooled in the Jesse Fox school in Spanish Fork, Utah. He was able to read and write and spoke three languages Shoshoni, English, and most likely Spanish since his Tribe had long established trade relations with the nearby Mexicans. And as historian John Alton Peterson points out in his book "Utah's Black Hawk War" Black Hawk had a keen understanding of Mormon economics.

Wakara's nephew Antonga Black Hawk was but a boy when the Mormons came, and in time became his nations War Chief under the leadership of his uncle Chief Tabby. Black Hawk's first responsibility was spiritual. It was the way of his people that a warrior will always try to preserve life.

As a warrior, he preferred 'taking coup' to taking a life. Black Hawk put family and tribe above all else. It was not about him, he followed his people's values and traditions, and helped those who were starving, often going without himself.

Black Hawk always offered up prayers before going into battle, with ceremony and dance. And as a survivor, he made offerings to the enemy's family and was cleansed in holy ceremony.

It was his nature to be humble, kind, gentle, honest, fair and patient in all affairs. Antonga was a teacher, believing that love can overcome hate, and hypocritical morality. One who respected himself and appreciated others because we are all human. He understood the natural order that all inhabitants of Mother Earth are connected. He loved unconditionally, and forgave unconditionally, and that being born human makes you superior to nothing.

His elders taught that true freedom meant being in harmony with his fellow man and all that our Creator gave us. He fought to protect the sacred, his people, and equality. This was Black Hawk's mission of peace.

How do I know these things? I lived with them; I found the truth. These are traditional teachings of the Timpanogos I learned while living with them and Native Americans throughout North and South America.

Were the Timpanogos treated with respect or kindness?

In the end Black Hawk's grave was robbed by members of the LDS Church at Spring Lake, and his mortal remains were put on public display in the window of a hardware store for amusement in Spanish Fork, Utah. Then later was moved to Temple Square in down town Salt Lake City, and there remained on public display for decades.

Background Of The Author Phillip B Gottfredson

The book Indian Depredations In UtahMy great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson was a friend of Black Hawk and spent much of his youth living in the camps of the Timpanogos during the war. In 1919 Peter wrote a firsthand account of the Black Hawk War his book Indian Depredations in Utah. Inspired by Peter's book, I wanted very much to know what his experience was while living with the Timpanogos.

It followed that in 2004, my journey began in earnest when I attended the Grand Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. I then turned to not just one tribe but all First Nations of Utah to hear their story about the Utah Black Hawk War. It was the most humbling of all experiences in my life.

During the decades I spent learning from Native peoples throughout North and South America, it became obvious to me that Utah's Black Hawk War was the end of a sacred time—a tragedy for the Timpanogos that should be remembered and never forgotten. This was the motivation needed to write "My Journey to Understand Black Hawk Mission Of Peace."

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Our Objective:

It is the objective of to help educate people about the Mormon's Black Hawk War and the unjust and undeserved devastation it has brought to the Timpanogos Tribe of Utah. We are proud of our efforts to help the Timpanogos Nation find their rightful place in Utah's history that they are entitled to. 

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